Authorities Denounce Racist Symbols While Officer Rejects Accusation of Racism Skip to content
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Photo: A screenshot from mbl.is.

Authorities Denounce Racist Symbols While Officer Rejects Accusation of Racism

Government officials and police management’s response to a photo of a police officer wearing hate symbol patches underneath her uniform has been swift, condemning the flags and denouncing racism within the police force. The police officer in question, as well as the head of Reykjavík’s police union, reject accusations of racism. A photo showing the officer wearing flags and symbols with connotations of white supremacy and violence sparked public outcry.

Read More: Hate Symbols on Reykjavík Police Uniform Cause Public Outcry

Minister of Justice: racism isn’t widespread but incident will have repercussions

Minister for Justice Áslaug Arna Sigubjörnsdóttir stated on Twitter yesterday that hate symbols will not be tolerated within the police, not now nor ever, adding that education will be increased. She stated that police officers had the responsibility to not express hateful points of view through symbols, words, or gestures. “That’s now clearer than ever and everyone should know what these symbols mean. We will set a higher standard from now on.” The police officer has repeatedly told the media she had no idea that the symbols she wore had connotations of white supremacy and violence.

While Áslaug condemned the racist symbols, she told Vísir she doesn’t think racism is mainstream within the police. “This has maybe opened people’s eyes to what these symbols mean, what sort of message they send and what they mean for the people the police serves,” said Áslaug. “Of course I don’t believe racism is deeply rooted within the police here, but I do think we need to learn from this. We will always denounce every kind of hate symbol or discourse that will arise and we can learn from this, understand how different people view these symbols and what they mean,” Áslaug told Vísir.

Chief Superintendent broken-hearted

Chief Superintendent Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson, says the symbols underneath the police officer’s uniform are not in compliance with the police’s policy to serve all inhabitants equally and with respect. “This is not the message we want to send,” he told mbl.is and added that the police regrets the incident.

He explained that patches like these have existed for a few years and that officers have worn them on their vests, which usually aren’t visible. Most wear symbols like their blood type, their children’s birth date or old ID number as regional officers. Later on, people started exchanging patches with each other and officers in other countries. He says he hasn’t seen patches like the ones in question before. “We’ve maybe slept on our guard with these patches,” says Ásgeir, adding that regulations clearly state that no patches or symbols can be visible on a police officer’s uniform.

Ásgeir stated that clear instructions were issued today, banning all such patches. He has stated that he feels miserable due to the incident, stating: “The photo sends all the absolutely wrong messages, because the police are trying their hardest to cultivate a relationship with these groups, and the [Vinland flag] is in the complete opposite direction. We take this very seriously and we’re kind of broken-hearted that this was the case,” Ásgeir told RÚV. He has received more images of officers wearing inappropriate patches. He admits that he didn’t recognise the green flag and had to look it up. “it’s horrible that this came up. And what’s so weird is that the photo is three years old, it’s been in the media several times. What’s worse is that no one pulled the reins earlier so that we could have responded sooner.”

MP takes up the issue in Parliament

Pirate Party MP Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir took the issue up in Parliament. She has requested that the Capital Area Police meet with Parliament’s Judicial Affairs and Education Committee to discuss racism within the police force and ways to combat it. In a speech, Þórhildur Sunna stated that one of the flags was a symbol of white supremacists and that for the US police, the Punisher logo stood for the police’s role a punishing force, those who take the law and punishments into their own hands and bypass the judicial system. The message was that the police’s only role was to punish citizens for their alleged offences, “but that can not be considered desirable in a society that wants to adhere to a policy of betterment and rule of law.”

She praised the Capital Area Police for their reaction but went on to say that the police officer’s statement that many officers wore the symbols and that she didn’t think they had any negative connotations suggested either a lack of education within the police on racism and violent symbols, “or that racism and violence are accepted within the police force. Both of which are unacceptable.”

Police officer and director of police union reject accusations of racism

Director of the Reykjavík Police Union Arinbjörn Snorrason was offended by the MP’s comments, even suggesting she resign. He told Vísir that police officers who wore the patches did so with good intentions and he never heard any racist messages. When asked if the Vinland flag wasn’t racist, he said it could well be. “I don’t wear these patches myself but I think it was all done with good intentions. […] I think originally, officers, or at least this one, I don’t know how widespread this is, wore them thinking it sent a message of support for a good cause, absolutely not because it was a sign of racism.”

Inspector Anita Rut Harðardóttir, the officer in the photo, does not like the discussion on alleged racism within the police force either, telling Vísir it’s unacceptable that people have called her a neo-Nazi and says she hasn’t received any negative messages from colleagues, only support. She has recently added a thin blue line to her profile picture on Facebook. Asked about the addition, she stated it’s simple, it’s to raise awareness of the thin blue line. “It’s not racist like people are saying but it’s a mark of solidarity within the police. Us who stand guard that society is good. That we do our job and that it is underappreciated.” She reiterates that she does not think the flags are bad. “I would never take part in the ugly game of carrying flags with such messages. That’s not what the police stands for. I don’t feel embarrassed about the flags. The Punisher flag, if that annoys people, I’ll take it down. It’s a cartoon figure and I didn’t think more about it. but calling me a neo-Nazi, that’s just sad.”

 

 

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